217. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which he has had discussions at EU and UN level with regard to future deployment of the Defence Forces overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15707/17 asked on 29 Mar 2017)
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe) (Deputy Paul Kehoe): As of 01 March 2017, Ireland is contributing 585 Defence Forces personnel to 9 different missions throughout the world and also to a range of international organisations and National Representations. The main overseas missions in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed are the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 378 personnel and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria with 136 personnel.
The 378 personnel in UNIFIL serve alongside Finnish Armed Forces as part of a joint Battalion of which Ireland took over command in November 2016. As a consequence of taking over command we deployed an additional Company of some 150 personnel as part of Ireland’s contribution to this mission.
Ireland has a long and continuous record of contributing to peacekeeping missions. Participation in these missions demonstrates Ireland’s strong support for the role of the United Nations in international peacekeeping. The current contribution of some 585 personnel to overseas missions reflects the Government’s continued commitment to our responsibilities in this area.
The main EU-led mission in which Irish personnel have been serving since March 2013 is the EU-led Training Mission in Mali, EUTM Mali. The objective of the mission is to improve the capacity of the Malian Armed Forces to maintain security in Mali and restore the authority of the Malian Government and the territorial integrity of the Malian State. Currently, eighteen (18) members of the Permanent Defence Force are deployed to the mission. Following Government approval, two further Irish personnel will be deployed as trainers to the mission in the near future in response to a recent request from the Mission Commander.
During each EU Presidency both formal and informal meetings of Defence Ministers are held. On 6 March 2017, I attended the extraordinary formal Defence Ministers Meeting under the auspices of the Foreign Affairs Council. Discussions were focused on current EU-led operations and future proposed developments.
The Department of Defence constantly reviews the deployment of Defence Forces personnel overseas. With regard to any future deployments of Defence Forces personnel overseas, Ireland receives requests, from time to time, in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis.
The question of a further deployment of Naval vessels to the Mediterranean is currently under consideration.
Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are shown in the following table.
(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ - 30
UNIFIL 109th Infantry Battalion - 340
UNIFIL Sector West HQ - 8
(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) Israel & Syria - 12
(iii) MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) - 3
(iv) MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - 4
(v) UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) HQ - 1
UNDOF Staff Appointments (Camp Ziouani) - 5
UNDOF 54th Infantry Group (Camp Ziouani) - 130
TOTAL - 533
(vi) EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina) - 6
(vii) EUTM Mali (EU-Led Training Mission) - 18
(viii) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ - 12
TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH UN MISSIONS - 569
(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina - 1
(ii) Staff Officer, High Level Planning Group, Vienna - 1
TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH OSCE - 2
Brussels - 4
(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York - 1
(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna - 1
(iii) Military Representative to EU (Brussels) - 4
(iv) Liaison Officer of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels) - 2
(v) EU OHQ Operation Althea, Mons, Belgium - 1
(vi) Irish Liaison Officer to SHAPE & Military Co-Op Division, Mons, Belgium - 1
TOTAL NUMBER OF DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS - 585